Pacific Jewish Center | Rabbi

The Rabbi on the Beach @ The Shul on the Beach

Shame on Gizmodo | Shame on Us Too


One of my favorite gadget blogs ran a discpicable headline for a post yesterday. Gizmodo is a great blog when it comes to getting information, reviews and opinions on the latest technology and gadgets. Unfortunately, yesterday they disgraced their reputation with a pretty offensive headline.

The headline garnered enough attention that they ultimately changed it to something less offensive.

There is a normal Orthodox Jewish couple who have a vacation home. Originally, the building did not have motion sensing lights but recently changed the system to a motion sensing system. On Shabbos the couple did not wish to be forced to walk in a hallway that would trigger the lights on. They requested the building swap the new system for the old one at their expense. The building refused. The couple sued.

Gizmodo posted the following headline: “Orthodox Couple Imprisoned By Superstition Blame Motion Sensing Light Instead”.

Proof:

giz superstition

Subsequently, the headline was changed to “Orthodox Jewish Couple Sues Over Motion Sensing Light“.

I posted the link on Facebook hoping to get some comments from my Facebook friends. I got a few interesting responses.

One commenter hit the two points that I want to discuss on this blog.

1 – The halachic ramifications of motion sensors and Shabbos for the Orthodox Jew.

2 – The reaction of a non-Jew to a halacha adherent Jew.

I do not want to get into a nitty gritty halachic discourse of motion sensors on Shabbos. Suffice to say, the issue is not black and white. On Shabbos one may not act in a way that will automatically produce a desired result that violates Shabbos. Completing a circuit to turn on a light is a violation of Shabbos. By activated the sensor, one automatically produced the desired result of turning on the light.

There is leeway when the result is not automatic or when the result is not desired.

I am all for striving to keep halacha. When I am met with a choice between what I want and what halacha demands I try my best to choose halacha. So for example, if I am driving late at night and I pull into a rest stop and they have a fast food joint serving burgers that are not kosher I have a choice. I want a burger but halacha demands that my burgers be kosher. I choose to leave the rest stop burgerless. I will not sue the restaurant for not providing kosher burgers. Right?

Now, I know this is a little different from the vacation home. But, it is the same principle. If halacha will not allow for me act a certain way, guess what? I am not going to act that way. Even if I really, really, really want to. So, I know that in the vacation home there are other factors, such as broken promises and flawed reasoning. However, if it were me, or anyone that I advise I would trade that place for a new one.

Adhering to halacha is about making a choice to allow halacha to control your life and not your whims and desires at any given moment. There will be times where the choice is hard or the alternative is very tempting, those are the times where you show your strength of character by making what you believe to be the right choice. Those are not the times to sue because you have been made uncomfortable in your adherence to halacha.

There may be great merit to the lawsuit. I find that all irrelevant. I think, avoiding a legal brouhaha over halacha is more important than the principle of who is right and who is wrong in this situation.

Second, the offensive headline that originally appeared on Gizmodo bothered me. I am NOT an overly sensitive person. I do not cry “Anti-Semitism at every opportunity I get (ala Uncle Leo). I don’t even call this “Anti-Semitism”, I call this insensitivity.

There is nothing against Jewish people, per se, when calling religion a superstition. But there is a tremendous breach of sensitivity.

Gizmodo writer, Jack Lofton doesn’t believe in religion in general and that’s okay. I am not going to call him names about his lack of faith or question his theology publicly. That is just not appropriate for a gadget blog. If he were writing on a religion blog, or even an anti-religion blog then Jack’s opinion about religion might be relevant. Here, it was not and inserting his bigoted opinion was insensitive.

I do not read the headline as an affront to Judaism or even religion in general. I read the headline as an affront to civility.

We live in a big world, with a lot of people. Not everyone is going to agree. You can try and convince everyone you are right or lash out against those who do not. But ultimately, we are not all going to agree. So let agree on this, let’s choose not to fight about our disagreements and otherwise be friends. I mantioned this revolutionary concept on this blog a little while ago. We have more in common than not. Let’s stop fighting about God, or anything else we feel strongly about and move on.

Also, Jack, Gizmodo is the wrong place to make your point about religion.

Time and place, Jack. Showing your prejudice against religion is ugly, it is especially ugly when it is not at all connected to the content of your post. I read Gizmodo for technology news and content. Just because you have a soapbox does not mean you can shout whatever you want whenever you want. Time and place.

Jack, please don’t make fun of other people’s beliefs on one of my favorite gadget blogs. Thanks.

Update: To his credit, the writer apologized.

Advertisements

Filed under: All Posts, Musings & Observations, My Links, , , , , , , , , , , ,

23 Responses

  1. hadassahsabo says:

    hear hear!!

  2. ilanadavita says:

    I find that non believers have a hard time understanding religion and they tend to see us all in term of black and white. When I say that I keep kosher (or Shabbat), people are surprised. They can’t understand how a rather modern looking person can possible adhere to such “old-fashioned” ideas (their thoughts of course, not mine). It would make sense to them if I looked like a female version of an aytollah but since I don’t they just don’t know what to make of the information.

  3. Hesh says:

    Its interesting because this story is really old – I wrote about it maybe 1 month or 2 ago.

  4. I love Gizmodo! That upsets me. Shame shame.

  5. simonsynett says:

    You wrote:

    Those are not the times to sue because you have been made uncomfortable in your adherence to halacha.

    There may be great merit to the lawsuit. I find that all irrelevant. I think, avoiding a legal brouhaha over halacha is more important than the principle of who is right and who is wrong in this situation.

    I do not understand your position at all! There is an entire section of Shulchan Aruch that does insist that a person’s proprietary rights are worthy of fighting for, when compromised by various sorts of mischief.

    That mischief may be something as subtle as a neighbour’s prying eyes, or a bad smell being produced by a neighbour’s activities. Why should a “halachic” nuisance be any less actionable?

    And how can you propose a blanket policy of waiving your own proprietary rights in the face of these kinds of challenges? You may want to go lifnim mishuras hadin for yourself, although I don’t see the merit personally, but to suggest that you’d advise this to others doesn’t sit well with me from a choshen mishpat perspective.

    What am I missing?

    I’d like to hear your response…

    • rabbifink says:

      Your line of reasoning is flawed. The SA is dealing with people who all must adhere to its rules. When dealing within our halachic Jews then you must exercise your Choshen Mishpat rights.

      Alas, that is not the case. We are guests on a foreign land with foreign rules. Would you sue someone because their food is unkosher?

      The building owner is not bound by halacha so using your religion as basis for a suit is just asking for trouble. If there was an unalienable right that was being deprived I would agree a suit may be necessary.

      Look, I did not say, they have no right to sue or that they are wrong for suing. I said I think they shouldn’t sue. The potential for misunderstanding halacha and the ensuing chillul hashem is too great.

      I think frum Jews should be as innocuous as possible. Unless you are certain to make a kiddush hashem, then be visible.

      • simonsynett says:

        You say: Your line of reasoning is flawed. The SA is dealing with people who all must adhere to its rules.

        I don’t think this is correct. One does not forfeit proprietary rights simply because the “offender” is not religious or not Jewish.

        I also don’t think that a policy of waiving rights as an attempt to be innocuous sets a good precedent, as it encourages others to be less sensitive to proprietary rights in general, and those of our brethren in particular.

        • rabbifink says:

          We can disagree on this.

          But it is a matter of opinion, not rooted in halacha.

          I have no problem being pushed around on minor things like motion sensing lights. Call me “soft”, I am more concerned about chillul hashem than proprietary rights based on halacha.

          If the suit was ONLY about breach of contract and they were promised X and they got Y it would be different. But they are saying their rights are being infringed upon by motion sensing lights.

          • simonsynett says:

            Agreed that my latter point isn’t necessarily legislated upon. Having said that, we do find, albeit in extreme cases such as pidyon shevuyim, the idea that we shouldn’t do things that encourage others to take liberties.

            On the legal aspect, I still don’t understand you at all: It’s been a while since I’ve studied English property law, but as far as I can tell, if a neighbour does something that compromises my normal use of my property, that constitutes a prima facie case of nuisance.

            I’m not addressing whether or not there are leniencies in hilchos Shabbes, and indeed, if I were defending the building management I’d go out and find them all, but is it appropriate for the couple to sue? I think yes.

  6. rabbifink says:

    Your legal analysis is not accurate.

    Nuisance is a legal interference with use of one’s property.

  7. Joanne says:

    I think you are missing the point that the Jewish homeowners are not able to go out of their house on Shabbat because then the motion sensor would go off.,That is why the article headline is that they are trapped in their house as a result of their religious beliefs. They have agreed to pay to put the lighting back the way it was and if the building does not comply then they are trapped inside. How is the East Coast, Rabbi Fink??

    • rabbifink says:

      Joanne – the original blog headline said they were trapped by their superstition. The implication being that adherence to halacha is superstition. That is insensitive.

      Number two. I don’t advocate suing based on halacha unless one is being deprived an unalienable right.

      • Joanne says:

        Rabbi Fink,

        If they came to the building and this light was existing, they would have no case. But installing this motion detector light infringes on their basic religious right to walk in the hallway without having to compromise their halachic beliefs. Also they did offer to settle the issue at their own expense by going back to old lighting system.

        • rabbifink says:

          Yes, the housing landlord is being stubborn.

          Yes, they may have a valid lawsuit.

          Yes, they did offer to settle.

          I still don’t like orthodox Jews suing because they choose to follow halacha.

  8. Adam Hyman says:

    “There is a normal Orthodox Jewish couple who have a vacation home. Originally, the building did not have motion sensing lights but recently changed the system to a motion sensing system.”

    The couple is NOT normal. Tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews live in apartment buildings or on streets that have lights with automatic sensors, that can’t be avoided, when they leave the place they live.

    DO THEY ALL SUE?

    “On Shabbos one may not act in a way that will automatically produce a desired result that violates Shabbos. Completing a circuit to turn on a light is a violation of Shabbos.”

    The second sentence contradicts the first.
    The second sentence should be: Completing a circuit when the desired result is to turn on a light is a violation of Shabbos.

    If the couples electricity trips and they walk outside, to activate the light, so they can read a book – that is mechalel shabbos.

    If they walk outside their apartment to walk to shul and the light happens to turn on – its not mechalel shabbos.

    There are times when due to Halacha we do things which might annoy outside society and we should do whatever Halacha demands, regardless of the consequences. But why annoy the rest of society when its not demanded by Halacha?
    That’s just insensitive and is EXACTLY the type of thing that leads to dislike of Jews.

    The way those snobby, stuck-up Jews acted is DISGUSTING and reflects poorly on the whole Jewish community. Thank G-d the vast majority of Torah observant Jews act differently. And thank G-d there are many Torah observant Jews who speak out against such behavior.
    That is the point Rabbonim SHOULD be making.

  9. Yehoshua Dalin says:

    Rabbi, you’re right about one thing. You are guests in a foreign land. The question is, what are you doing in a foreign land? Come HOME to Israel already! As Rav of PJC, do you do everything you can to encourage aliyah? I don’t know- I made Aliyah from Venice before you became the Rabbi there. But please email me at SuperShuki@gmail.com with your answer. I personally think that the best thing you can do to encourage Aliyah would be to make Aliyah yourself. If PJC still needs a rabbi, maybe you can visit from your true home, in Israel. (I am the eldest son of Gary and Marsha Dalin, btw)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Learn More About Me

July 2009
S M T W T F S
« Jun   Aug »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Photos of PJC

%d bloggers like this: